Kirk in the Hills: Sunday Night Music

9 Apr

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Detroit has always been home to industry and innovation, creating great wealth among men; many of these men turned out to be extremely generous philanthropists. Edwin S George is one such man, in 1947 he donated Cedarholm, his home and estate for the creation of the Kirk in the Hills congregation of the Presbyterian Church. Kirk hosts special music events and concerts throughout the year, tonight we are attending a performance of The Passion according to St John by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Kirk campus resides on a 40 acre setting on Island Lake, the Gothic designed sanctuary is an imposing sight; the interior is equally impressive. Completed in 1958, the sanctuary looks and feels straight out of the 13th century. We purchase our tickets and have a look around, true to Gothic architecture my eyes are immediately drawn upward; I take in pointed arches, vertical lines and stately flying buttresses. Majestic stained glass windows in deep blue, red, white, with  a touch of yellow and green are immense and line both walls. Distinctive light fixtures dangle from long chains casting light both up and down. The floor is slate, a main aisle splits the nave in half, multiple rows of wooden pews make up each side. We find ourselves a seat and get comfortable; the concert is about to begin.

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The musicians have taken their seats in front of the altar, a group of about 20 white-robed choir members take their places. This is our first experience attending an oratorio. An Oratorio is a musical composition including an orchestra, choir and soloists using various characters and arias to tell a story. The tale of The Passion begins with the betrayal and capture of Jesus; the choir starts by singing a powerful chorus, a soloist playing an Evangelist stands at the lectern performing a recitative (sung speech), another plays the part of Jesus; voices are strong, dramatic. The story continues to be told by members of the Kirk Chancel Choir, the accompanying orchestra is magnificent, a beautiful Knight Vernon harpsichord rests between the front pews.  The music is stirring, it completely sets the mood; at times it is haunting. The church is exquisite, the ideal setting for this piece, the acoustics are perfect. I am following along in my program and see we are nearing the end; the final chorus has begun, it is loud, extravagant and moving. When it is finished there is a beat of silence before the applause begins. The sanctuary is an amazing place to attend musical events, the DSO will be performing here on April 13 and May 18. The 20th Annual Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival takes place here June 8-23, come check it out!

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It is nearly 10pm on Sunday, dinner is long past due. Birmingham is just a short drive away, we are sure something will still be open. We park in front of Dick O Dow’s on Maple, we luck out, they are still serving food. The chill of the night air disappears immediately as we step inside, the space is warm, cozy and oozes Irish charm. The floor is made up of wide wood planks, wainscoting and walls are rich, dark wood, as is the bar, the ceiling is painted and treated giving the whole room a rustic feel. Authentic instruments and knick knacks find homes on shelves throughout the restaurant; our waitress tells us everything came directly from Ireland, pretty neat! Our hunger has gotten the best of us and we order as quickly as possible; Irish Sliders which are made up of corned beef, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and 1000 Island Dressing are tasty and hit the spot. The Carey’s Special sandwich layers Irish bacon (think Canadian bacon), fried egg, Irish cheddar, lettuce and tomato on a baguette, fries come on the side, yum! We eat speedily, but enjoy each bite; afterward we kick back and relax for a bit soaking up the atmosphere. In one night we feel as if we have traveled back to 13th century Scotland and then to an old pub in Ireland. Who says there’s nothing to do on a Sunday?

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